Stage V and Kardashian Power

IMG_1077 close up copyThe Kardashian family is highly successful. Whether you approve or disapprove of their choices is not the point in today’s post. What is relevant is how they have been able to achieve the level of success they have experienced and harnessing it to change perceptions about cancer.

There are many causes for their success. The Kardashian brand is highly visible in the public eye. They have strong financial backing. The family’s influence is far-reaching, almost anything Kardashian turns into gold, and each family member knows how to work the Kardashian brand through the use of social media. Each family member has celebrity power.

My brand is Stage V – a cancer stage focused on unrelenting wellness.

I do not accept that Stage IV is the end of the line. Therefore, I’ve created a space where I live in alignment with my own expectations, ignoring what I’ve heard in terms of medical statistics. Stage V is a way to think outside the medical box, shattering it, and creates a mindset toward surviving and thriving. This brand, product, however it would be labeled in the business world if it were to be thought of as something to sell, needs to become more visible to the masses. Using social media is a good way to increase visibility to the public eye.

I do not have the same type of assets like those possessed by the Kardashians, nor am I a celebrity. I am okay with this because I am introverted and treasure my privacy. Yet, I understand that in order for what I am branding, individuals with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis need to re-envision their life as a Stage V lifestyle where living in a world of wellness is the focus. Stage V needs to be branded like a Kardashian perfume. It needs to have Kim-Kanye visibility on social media, and it needs to be talked about and recognized as a real and viable concept. Survivors who ooze Stage V qualities are the best recognition to give it credibility and success. Exposure and increased visibility will mean Stage V becomes more than a powerful brand; Stage V becomes a way of living as intended.

I have heard two news stories about Stage IV cancer over summer that used the back-to-back sentences: “She has Stage IV breast cancer. She’s dying.” It was maddening because the story was about a woman swimming Madison lakes to raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer. She looked every bit as strong and as alive as a person could be. The part about her dying just didn’t seem accurate, nor did I think it was necessary to the story. I contacted the news station and found out this was how the woman featured described herself. I disagree with her description, but I wholeheartedly support and applaud her efforts. I choose to see her as Stage V.

How can you talk about Stage V in ways that promote its visibility positively?

Education is the first step in bringing about change. More survivors are speaking up and being such educators. If you are a reader with cancer and you are ready to make a difference by altering perceptions one by one, use the following as scripts to guide conversations in shifting others to a Stage V mindset.

  • Explain what Stage V means. Keep it simple but be very clear that you are living in a space of wellness. You have moved beyond the medical classification of your health and are living fully. You don’t accept discussing your health in unhealthy or disparaging terms.
  • Possible script – “Thanks for caring. I am living each day in a mindset of wellness. Yes, things have changed, but I don’t see myself as sick.”
  • Possible script – “I don’t feel sick. I feel well. I am taking such good care of myself that I will be even healthier in the future.”
  • Live and lead by example. Normal is as normal does. Wellness is as wellness does.
  • If others cannot accept your mindset as being one of unrelenting wellness, then politely tell them they can step aside and get out of your way. You do not deserve to be categorized and put in a box. If you are not going to block your own path, others will not be allowed to either.

What would Kim Kardashian do? I don’t think she’d listen to criticism or let naysayers stand in her way. I believe she would speak her mind and get on with what she needed to do. Appropriate disclaimer inserted here: Of course, I don’t know Kim and have no idea what she would really do. Yet, the idea that you create and then live something better if you aren’t happy with the choices offered to you is exactly the same whether one thinks about Kardashian Power or Stage V Power. Again, I don’t really know what Kim would or would not do. The bigger question . . . What will you do?

 

Guilt and Release

I’ve been feeling a little guilty that I’m retired and not teaching.

Why couldn’t I find a way to go back?

The truth is I had found a way for four years after my initial diagnosis and treatment. I had found a way to keep my teaching job, full time, and also a way to stay on top of health matters and decisions. Things were a lot different then. Appointments were monthly. Medication was oral. Those were the days of aromatase inhibitors. Then came the year of oral chemo and I still found a way to continue teaching, but it was getting harder and harder. It took all my energy and side effects took their toll. I felt exhausted and needed to rest when I got home from work and appointments. It seemed all I did was manage elements of my health so I could teach. After two years existing this way, came the recommendation that more traditional chemotherapy was best for me. It would be too hard for me to care for the educational best interests of twenty some second graders while caring for myself. Thankfully, I even found a way to have my job held for me while I was on medical leave for two years, which was a little unusual as those things go. Last spring, I needed to make a decision about my career. Plans for a new school year were being made. Extending medical leave was no longer possible. Retirement was the best choice, so I retired super early, having not been able to find a way to teach kids and do what I have always loved.

Why?

I’ve always been able to find a way.

The only semblance of an answer I come up with is that I’m supposed to find my way in something different. I am still finding a way to stay healthy. Maybe I am to find a way to be a writer. I’d like to find ways to travel more. Perhaps I am to find a way in something I don’t even know yet.

I think that it’s really difficult to realize that something new is about to begin when something else ends that we don’t want to end. Looking forward is hard when we’re too busy looking back. And so it’s onward to finding whatever it is I’m supposed to find with each new day. I will keep searching.

Guilt surfaces as an emotion from time to time. It just can’t stick around too long. Lately, I’m thinking about guilt like catch and release fishing. I catch a whopper, a really large sturgeon sized catch of guilt worthy of its weight. Guilt is heavy. I realize I’ve caught it and I don’t want it. Not going to gut it, eat it, or mount it on my wall. No way. Guilt is not a prize. I must release that guilt and then get back to more enjoyable, positive, and meaningful pursuits. So I release it, reminding myself I fish for joy, kindness, and love.

Joy, kindness, and love are catches worth keeping.

Finding A Way

Diana Nyad is the first person ever to complete a swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark tank. Here are some of the numbers: she did it when she was 64 years old, it was a 103 mile long swim, it took her 53 hours, and she completed her swim on her fifth try on September 2, 2013.

Her mantra was persistent – Find a way.  She didn’t give up.

Finding a way is a constant theme in my life, too. I need to find ways to increase my strength and stamina. I need to find ways to stay motivated and never give up my belief that I am healthy. I need to find ways to lead and live by example. I need to find ways that reflect purpose and meaning in my life. I need to find ways to experience joy every day. I need to find ways to live my truth. I sure need a lot of things! Life is challenging for each of us. Finding a way is challenging for me because I am finding my way as someone living with cancer.

LIVING with cancer is an intentional part in finding my way as opposed to battling or fighting cancer. My energy is focused on living, and living well. Yes, there is grit involved. Sometimes it is hard. But the words are there just as they were for Diana Nyad – find a way, find a way, find a way. No matter what.

And so I have decided to write about finding a way, my way, and what that means to me in my efforts to be strong, to be hopeful, and to be well as I live with something that has pushed me more than anything I have ever known. I am pushing back. If you read something that helps you find your way, then so much the better.

Find a way, find a way, find a way.  Always.

IMG_1003 copy 2